Student accommodation bookings have dipped globally this year as a result of the pandemic, but countries have faired better than others, research by accommodation marketplace Student.com and market research and advisory firm BONARD has found.
While Germany, the US and France saw international student bookings made via Student.com fall by at least 73%, providers in Ireland, Spain and the UK “fared best” witnessing declines of -11.74%, -20% and -29% respectively.
In positive news for the student accommodation sector, the research also found that the student housing asset class has proven “defensive and recession-resilient”, while no divestments have been witnessed across the market.
During the pandemic, an increased number of opportunistic investors have been looking for distressed properties, as international student demand is expected to remain strong.
However, flexibility at higher education institutions and student accommodation providers will continue to be essential, researchers added, as they suggested the sector will “bounce back stronger” after the pandemic subsides.
“What we have seen is that the hunger for students around the world to study has not stopped,” Dan Baker, general manager, EMEA at Student.com said.
“Covid-19 has simply changed their plans somewhat, whether that is the end destination, their university city, or their start date, and even what type of student accommodation they book.”
“As expected, there has been a decline in the preference for shared rooms, which could be down to students wanting to self-isolate. There is also a growing trend of groups wanting to switch to single rooms, rather than their usual shared rooms,” he added.
BONARD’s CEO Samuel Vetrak added that the company is tracking some 185 projects that are due to be completed in 2021, with a further 95 projects set to open in 2022.
“What we see is that approximately 80% of these are likely to be delivered on time,” he said.
BONARD has also received an increased number of enquiries about opportunistic assignments aimed at finding distressed properties, and usually former hotels are available for this type of repurposing, Vetrak added.
“This is what happened in the early 1990s, after 9/11 and during the GFC of 2008-2009 and we have every reason to believe that the market will bounce back stronger once the pandemic is over,” he said.
“The sector has not lost its head after initial uncertainty.”
Additionally, Mystudenthalls.com has recorded high demand for accommodation options on its platform, driven in part by international students.
“We’ve seen continued interest in studying in the UK from international students, with a rise in search traffic from some overseas territories including Portugal and UAE (both 29%), India (30%) and Hong Kong (56%),” said Mystudenthalls.com MD & Founder Dan Roberts.
“Whilst we can’t foresee how Covid will affect universities in the future, we can assume that demand will remain high as people strive for normality and a focus- –which studying provides.”
However, Roberts said it’s likely that given the impact of the virus is likely to span years, this will bring some changes to the way that student accommodation is developed and lived in, with more focus as a student hub for living, socialising and maintaining wellbeing in one space.
“With students already increasingly moving away from partying before the pandemic, there is also a much bigger focus from accommodation providers on maintaining student health – more relevant given the mental health impact of lockdown.”